To a New Year of Curiosity and Growth

Greetings. While it is hard to believe that 2016 is already here, the start of the New Year provides a great opportunity to reconnect with all of our friends, colleagues, customers, business partners, and blog readers, and to thank you for being part of the life of our company in 2015.

It also seems like the perfect time to start a new conversation about the importance, or rather the “necessity,” of curiosity in the year ahead—a year that will be filled with remarkable possibilities if we are willing to stretch our thinking about the best ways to innovate and grow our businesses and organizations. Always remember that curiosity is a gift you were born with and it is your most useful tool in making great things happen! And while it might take a bit of practice to retrain your curious self, it is a lot easier than you think.


In a world in which new ideas and business models are quickly changing almost all of our industries, we will all need to step out of our comfort zones in order to re-imagine how we can deliver even greater value to the customers, employees, and shareholders we have the privilege to serve. And the best ways to do this are by being humble about what we know and don’t know, paying closer attention to the world around us, asking our share of thoughtful questions, and being more open to connecting with and learning from people with very different ideas, insights, and points of view.

So here’s hoping that you and your colleagues will take the time to explore and connect with even more new people, new ideas, and new opportunities in 2016. And if you could use a little help, or simply a few words of encouragement, please don’t hesitate to give me a call or send me a quick note. In the meantime, I will try to be even more diligent about sharing ideas and insights from around the corner and across the globe that you can use to spark your best thinking yet.

But, most importantly, great thanks again to all of you who have shared your genius and taught me so much during the past twelve months.

Keep those cards, letters, calls, and emails coming, and best wishes for your most curious and successful year yet!


Noah-isms: “Just Relax”

Greetings.  If you've read Surrounded by Geniuses or ever attended one of my speeches or seminars, you know that I have a keen interest in swimming and the evolution and innovation of swimming techniques.  It's a topic that strikes at the heart of what it takes to be curious and open to change.  And here's a link to a previous blog post that will give you a quick idea of why it's so remarkable.

Which makes me a bit sad when summer, and the summer swim season, draws to a close.  If you or your children have ever been part of this annual ritual, you know that it's a wonderful seven weeks of exercise, teamwork, practice, meets, slightly unhealthy food of the carbohydrate variety, amusing cheers, goal setting, and fun. And some years, there's even a chance to push oneself to achieve a very special and somewhat illusive personal goal.  So it was this year for our son Noah as he set out to break a 28-year-old team record in the 50-meter freestyle.  A record that once seemed beyond his reach but, after a winter of practice and the good fortune of growing three inches since last summer, now seemed almost possible.  And when he came within 0.25 seconds of breaking it during the second meet of the season his confidence and preoccupation with the record grew.  Adding to his sense of optimism was the almost constant encouragement of his coaches and teammates, and the periodic kidding of his parents.

But it didn't happen.  For the following four weeks–filled with slow pools, driving rainstorms, and an ear infection–he just kept missing the record by the slimmest of margins.  And each week he would overcome his frustration by committing to "work harder at practice" and "swim harder during the meets."  Surely that would be a formula for success. But it wasn't.  So Noah decided that he needed to come up with a different approach for the divisional championships–the final meet of the season and his last chance to break the record.  "There's just too much pressure," he told me one day while driving home from practice.  "Swimming should be fun.  All I really need to do is relax.  Just relax.  Then I'll be able to swim my best."  And so he did, changing his pre-race routine to include a big smile and a bigger sigh of relief.  Then diving into the pool at the appointed moment with a greater sense of comfort and positive energy.  Comfort and energy that would take him to the finish 0.70 seconds faster than the previous record.

And I started thinking about the importance of relaxing when our most important work needs to be done.  That maybe amid the need to have a sense of urgency and the need to work hard to prepare to be brilliant at the things that matter most, we also have a compelling need to get comfortable in order to hit our stride.  To relax, find our groove, and be at one with the challenge.  Sound advice for ten-year-old swimmers and industry-leading champions.  

We win in business and in life when we figure out how to relax in order to be at our best.  Now, as in the past, records are broken when we work hard, smile harder, take a deep breath, and dare to get wet.